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Reducing Injuries in the Workplace

05 September 2023

In 2019, the number of workplace injuries reported went up as high as 2.8 million. That's a lot of injuries! Improper care around workplace setup and ergonomics can cause serious problems in terms of protecting employees and reducing the costs that come with injuries. In fact, the average cost per injury caused by workplace accidents in the same year was around $42,000, which is a huge amount.

But workplace injuries can do a lot more than just harm employees. Not only are they dangerous and costly, they are also time-consuming and greatly impact productivity and morale due to how dangerous they are.

Fortunately, there are ways to go about reducing injuries in the workplace. While there is no way to completely eliminate the risks, there are ways to minimize them as much as possible.

Most Common Injuries in the Workplace

Injuries in the workplace are quite common, though they shouldn't be, but some types are a lot more common than others.



Trips & Falls

Tripping and falling is one of the most common types of problems workers face. These injuries are most often caused by environmental factors, such as having things lying around or slippery surfaces. Electrical cables and poor lighting are also a cause of injuries from falls.

The injuries caused by falls can range from a mild bruise to serious fractures and dislocations. These are difficult to recover from and cost a lot - not just in monetary terms, but also in opportunity costs.



Repetitive Strain Injuries

Repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) are another common sort of injury that most commonly affect workers who have to do repetitive tasks all day. In fact, RSIs are most often associated with office workers who have to spend long hours in front of a computer, typing or using a mouse.

RSIs are dangerous because they don't actually register as a problem until it is too late. Because they affect the soft tissues in the body and develop very gradually, it is difficult to identify them until the injury has already set in place.

RSIs are not taken as seriously as they should be, and this can cause further problems, such as chronic pains and aches.

RSIs can also occur in most industries, but are most likely to happen to office workers.



Mental Injuries

Mental injuries aren't considered injuries per se, but stress can be just as bad as a physical injury. Stress can be due to heavy and unmanageable workloads, poor management, poor work conditions and even isolated work settings.

Stress and mental health problems are severe and can cause problems ranging from low productivity and focus to depression and anxiety. In fact, mental health problems take significantly longer periods of time to recover from. The average length of time needed for a mental health problem is about 15 weeks, in comparison to the 5 weeks needed for physical health.



Muscular Injuries

Muscle problems are another common type of problem faced at the workplace. These are often a result of carrying, pushing or lifting objects that are too heavy, especially if it is done with the wrong posture. While these problems are more common in workplaces that involve heavy duty work, they can also happen in office spaces.

Most jobs require work with manual handling at some stage or the other - whether that's lifting machinery or construction items, or even just boxes of documents in an office.

Tips for Preventing Workplace Injuries

The best way to avoid the costs that come with injuries is to prevent the injuries altogether.



Prevention & Wellness Training

Offering programs that encourage good health and accident prevention is a great way to minimize the number of problems that can arise. This is good because employees will be trained on how to protect themselves in the context of their workplace and be able to avoid injuries this way.

It's also important that training be provided to employees so that they know how best to carry themselves with regard to body mechanics so that they don't end up hurting themselves just because of bad posture or strain.



Hire More Employees

You might wonder how hiring more people can help with preventing injuries. While of course, hiring too many people isn't a solution, many times there are much fewer employees working with larger workloads than is safe for them. Overworked employees are at a much greater risk to suffer from exhaustion and thus, injuries, and are also more likely to cut corners when it comes to meeting output requirements.

This could mean that they put their own health on the line just to make sure they are meeting expectations, or they simply fail to meet those expectations. Making an assessment about whether you have the right number of employees for a task is a good way to determine whether you can prevent injuries that stem from overworking, or if another solution is required.



Rewards

Another way to minimize workplace injuries is to reward employees who take workplace safety seriously. Many employees, in an attempt to meet deadlines or expectations will tend to take shortcuts in an attempt to produce output in higher quantities, and thus put their health at risk. This can be dangerous for them in the long run, but there isn't a lot you can do to make sure they don't risk themselves.

However, what you can do is reward the employees who maintain safety standards and abide by them. This will give them an incentive to protect themselves and follow through with the safety training they have been provided with, rather than trying to maximize outputs. As a result, the number of injuries will go down, and thus, so will the costs.



Encourage Breaks

When it comes to protecting your body, there is no better way to do so than to encourage employees to take breaks. Many employees may feel like they are wasting time if they take a break, but encouraging them to do so will help get rid of this mindset.

Breaks are necessary if you want to be able to relax your body and stretch out your muscles. Relieving the built up tension in your body is a great way to reduce the risk of injuries - especially those related to RSIs and muscle injuries. Taking breaks help you relax and give your body the rest it needs, as well as time to clear your head.

This way, when you get back to work, you will be in good condition and work a lot more productively and efficiently than if you were to force yourself when your body is tired.

However, breaks should be about resting your body and giving it the exercise it needs. Breaks should not involve spending time on your phone or computer scrolling through social media, since this will only add to your stress. Instead, breaks should be spent walking around if you've been sitting for a long period of time, or vice versa, and rejuvenating your body.



Research Vulnerabilities

Besides just training employees, you also need to make sure the workplace itself is safe to work in. Every business is unique and has different requirements in terms of the kind of work required. As such, the safety requirements will also be different. By paying attention to what kind of vulnerabilities and risks are present, you can make an effort to improve the workspace for your employees and reduce the chances of injuries.

Research will also include looking into what kind of accidents are common and formulate strategies to protect your employees from such accidents in the future.



Provide Safety Equipment

Just knowing what the problem is isn't enough. You also need to make sure your employees have the right sort of equipment to protect themselves from risks. Again, different kinds of workplaces will have different requirements.

Safety equipment is usually associated with things like helmets or hazmat suits etc. that can protect you from dangerous substances or hard injuries, but safety equipment is also necessary in more risk-free workplaces like offices.

In fact, with repetitive stress injuries being one of the most common type of injuries, you need good ergonomic furniture to protect your employees from developing these problems.

A standing desk like FlexiSpot's Comhar Standing Desk with Drawers, for example, can be a great way to avoid injuries since it allows users to sit with the correct posture, at the height that is suitable for their bodies and thus avoid problems. It also helps them offset some of the dangers of sitting for long stretches of time which can help prevent further problems from stemming.



Audits

Once you've researched, trained and provided your employees with the right equipment, your job still isn't done! You also need to check up on them from time to time to make sure that they are following through with the safety training you've provided and keeping themselves out of trouble.

Audits will also provide further insight into whether your safety techniques are working or if further improvements are needed.